Texas woman is master of identifying fake Chanel handbags, even as counterfeit purses grow more convincing, as she shares easiest ways of spotting a copy

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Zekrayat Husein, 43, has been dubbed the ‘Coco Chanel of authentication’
  • She estimates around a fifth of the bags she appraises are fakes
  • The secondhand luxury market is booming and hit $49.3 billion last year, according to Bain & Co. 

A Texas woman who is a master of identifying fake Chanel handbags has revealed the easiest ways to spot a copy.

Zekrayat Husein, 43, has been dubbed the ‘Coco Chanel of authentication’ and evaluates hundreds of bags every week through her business, Zeko Authentication.

She estimates around a fifth of the products she evaluates each day are fakes, but warned that counterfeits are becoming increasingly tricky to spot.

In recent years, Chanel has put the price of its classic medium flap bag up to $10,200, from about $5,800 in 2019 – so far many secondhand buyers a consultation with Husein is a worthwhile investment.

‘These women save for years for this bag,’ she told the Wall Street Journal. ‘It’s not just a Chanel bag for her, it’s the dream.’  

Zekrayat Husein, 43, has been dubbed the ‘Coco Chanel of authentication’

Husein identifies fake Chanel bags, like this one, by looking out for certain inconsistencies with the original

Husein identifies fake Chanel bags, like this one, by looking out for certain inconsistencies with the original

Each authentic Chanel bag has a unique serial number sticker on the inside of the bag, usually on the interior lining, in a small pocket or on a small leather tab

Each authentic Chanel bag has a unique serial number sticker on the inside of the bag, usually on the interior lining, in a small pocket or on a small leather tab 

Husein’s clients pay $50 for a photo authentication or $100 for an in person appraisal which many believe to be a worthwhile investment for the peace of mind.

Here the mom-of-three shares her tips for spotting fakes, which have helped her authenticate more than 25,000 bags since she started her business in 2019.

Serial numbers

Each authentic Chanel bag has a unique serial number sticker on the inside of the bag, usually on the interior lining, in a small pocket or on a small leather tab. 

This matches with a corresponding authenticity card and can also be used to decipher a bag’s age.

Husein warned that convincing fakes will often replicate a serial number, but she told the Wall Street Journal that 10218184 is the most commonly used.

Color

There are certain consistencies to look out for on a real Chanel bag’s hardware, according to Husein,

The brand’s MPY hardware, which stands for metal pale yellow, actually has a darker tone of yellow. 

Meanwhile its metal shiny light gold (MSHLG) hardware is closer to champagne. 

Real Chanel flap bags, such as this one, are crafted from high quality lambskin which contains irregularities visible under a microscope, Husein said

Real Chanel flap bags, such as this one, are crafted from high quality lambskin which contains irregularities visible under a microscope, Husein said

Husein advised the brand's trademark metal hardware is often an indicator of whether a purse is genuine. Pictured: Two genuine Chanel 18S in emerald green

Husein advised the brand’s trademark metal hardware is often an indicator of whether a purse is genuine. Pictured: Two genuine Chanel 18S in emerald green

Husein often looks for bags which have been refurbished with non-Chanel hardware or re-dyed, as this decreases value.

She added that all Chanel classic medium flap bags in colors besides black are exclusively made in France and never in Italy.

Material

Husein warned that sometimes fakers will use similarly high quality material such as lambskin in their fakes.

‘They use the exact same leather as Chanel,’ she said.

But by identifying the piece under a microscope, she is able to identify some slight differences.

She advises buyers to look out for leather that is ‘too symmetrical’, cautioning that the hatched pattern on one of Chanel’s classic flap bags should not be identical.

‘Each pebble is not supposed to be the same size,’ Husein added.

Return Fraud 

 Authenticators such as Husein are also on the lookout for return fraud with telltale signs including sellers listing multiple of the same product, or items with tags.

Husein advises buyers to look out for leather that is 'too symmetrical', cautioning that the hatched pattern on one of Chanel's classic flap bags should not be identical

Husein advises buyers to look out for leather that is ‘too symmetrical’, cautioning that the hatched pattern on one of Chanel’s classic flap bags should not be identical

Consignment giant Fashionphile recently suspected a Gucci reseller was engaging in return fraud and blocked her sales.

The seller had produced receipts from a store which she shared as proof of authenticity, but was building a case against her because she was  bait-and-switching the bags. 

 Other authenticators

The secondhand luxury market is booming and hit $49.3 billion last year, according to Bain & Co. 

‘You need a certain eye,’ said Michelle Peeters, a Brooklyn based authenticator.

‘It’s never one isolated thing that you are looking for, but a puzzle of pieces and how they all connect,’ said Peeters. ‘The depth of the engravings, the silhouette, the interiors, the heat stamp, the foiling technique.’

Peeters began authenticating bags after becoming a reseller in 2009. She charges $35 for certificates. 

 What Chanel says

Chanel declined to comment on Husein or her business.

A spokesman told the WSJ the best way for customer’s be to assured they have purchased a genuine piece is by going through the brand.

‘Training and knowledge regarding authentication of genuine Chanel-branded goods could only reside within Chanel and only Chanel skilled staff can know what genuine Chanel is,’ the spokesman said.

Chanel said only its trained staff are qualified to assess the real from the fake as it encouraged shoppers to go direct to the brand

Chanel said only its trained staff are qualified to assess the real from the fake as it encouraged shoppers to go direct to the brand

In recent years the brand has been winning litigation against consignment sites who have resold fraudulent bags

In recent years the brand has been winning litigation against consignment sites who have resold fraudulent bags

The luxury brand has recently begun filing lawsuits against secondhand resale sites.

In February, Chanel won a lawsuit against  New York boutique What Goes Around Comes Around and was awarded $4 million in damages related to counterfeiting.

 ‘Such infringements hurt consumers and harm the Chanel goodwill and brand,’ said the Chanel spokeswoman in a statement. 

Meanwhile, a lawsuit against luxury-consignment reseller The RealReal in 2018 is still pending. 

‘We take inauthenticity allegations seriously and are constantly refining our systems to ensure we are addressing customer feedback and continually improving,’ a spokesperson for the RealReal told the WSJ,

The company also recently filed new lawsuits against resellers in Atlanta, and has also gone after sellers in New York and on the China-based site DHGate.

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